John Oliver: Consumer Advocate for the Masses
Sunday night, John Oliver dedicated part of his show to Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs), and the damage that they do to consumers with faulty reporting. Though he may hardly be alone in talking about this matter, he made the issue engaging and entertaining. Just as importantly, though his show is on premium cable, the entire segment is free to watch on YouTube.
That is his modus operandi. HBO gave John Oliver a pedestal, and he uses it, weekly, to break down esoteric and arcane areas of law and economics to show precisely how we're being screwed as consumers and citizens. Then, he gifts the segment to the masses and lets it spread. Just look at his previous segments on payday lending, student debt and for-profit colleges, and net neutrality. These are not easy subjects to explain or to understand, and Oliver has a way of not only explaining them, but making his explanation viral and effective as a call to action. In particular, his segment on net neutrality was credited with generating tens of thousands of public comments to the FCC and turning the tide in favor of consumers. I've long wished he would do a segment on forced arbitration.
Every year, the National Association for Consumer Advocates gives an award for excellence in consumer journalism to a journalist or journalists who go "above and beyond the normal call of duty by serving as a voice for their organizations and for consumers in the ongoing struggle to curb unfair and/or abusive practices." These days, John Oliver may be the greatest mass media consumer advocate we have.